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Black Powder for Self-Reliance

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Sentry18

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I will be sure and add part 2 tomorrow.


https://survivalblog.com/black-powder-self-reliance-part-1-m-b/


Black Powder for Self-Reliance – Part 1, by M.B.
SurvivalBlog Contributor October 8, 2019

Introductory Disclaimer:
Making black powder, while safe in the author’s experimental experience, can be dangerous. The author and SurvivalBlog.com do not endorse making black powder, and you do so at your own risk. Making black powder could also be in violation of the laws in your jurisdiction. You are responsible for compliance with all laws in your area. Neither the author, nor SurvivalBlog.com, are responsible for your use of the information in this article. The processes described herein are therefore for informational purposes only.

Safety Note:
Black powder can be dangerous if there is a gap between the powder and the projectile, when the firearm is loaded. When loading a muzzle loading firearm, be sure to seat the projectile firmly, so there is no empty space above the powder. This includes cap-and-ball revolvers, which can have no space between the powder and the ball or bullet, although wads can be used to fill the space when a light powder charge is used. When loading black powder cartridges, there must be no empty space inside the cartridge. You may need to use a wadding or other “filler” over the powder to take up the space inside the case.

INTRODUCTION
This article is intended to show the potential usefulness of black powder to preppers, especially in times of ammo shortages and gun bans, and to show how easy it is to make almost everything you need to keep a black powder firearm running, just about indefinitely. Please understand the repeated safety warnings: black powder behaves differently from smokeless powder, and knowing its unique characteristics is essential. You are strongly advised to exercise caution and to seek out a good black powder manual before venturing into black powder shooting for the first time.

WHY BLACK POWDER?
In a time of inexpensive AR-15s and plentiful ammo, it may seem silly to bother with black powder. It’s messy and will invite moisture and corrosion if not cleaned promptly. Black powder does not produce high velocities, and its low pressures and fouling make it incompatible with most semiautomatic firearms. It also produces a substantial amount of smoke. Outside of hunters and reenactors, many people look at black powder firearms as range toys with no applications as “serious” firearms.

On the other hand, just a few years ago, many of us were affected by an ammunition “drought,” in which .22 LR, 9mm Parabellum, and many other common types of ammunition were in extremely short supply. When ammo was found, it was often for sale at scalper’s prices. Reloading components — especially smokeless powders — were also scarce, as desperate gun owners resorted to reloading as their only source of ammunition.

Such times may come again, and without warning. Even as we see high-profile acts of violence with firearms which fit the narrative of the mainstream media and the Left (but I repeat myself), we are seeing more pushes for gun control. Attacks such as the mass shooting in El Paso will be used as justification to try to take away gun rights. Even if unsuccessful, the efforts can spawn buying panics that can result in sudden shortages of guns, magazines, ammo, and reloading supplies.

During the Great Obama Ammo Troubles (GOAT), I was able to keep shooting with black powder, since percussion caps were still available in my area, as were black powder substitutes, such as Pyrodex. I was able to conserve my stock of centerfire ammunition and smokeless powder by shooting black powder arms and by using black powder — or a substitute — in cartridges (I had stocked up on primers before the drought) for some centerfire firearms.

Even if there are no more mass murders with firearms, those days of scarcity could easily come again. Virtually every Democrat candidate for President in 2020 has made statements about wanting to ban a wide range of firearms. Some want door-to-door confiscation, while others prefer to confiscate firearms through Australian-style mandatory “buy backs” (confiscation, with compensation paid for by taxpayers). One former Democrat candidate from California even suggested using nuclear weapons on gun owners who defied the power of the State.

What will you do when gun store shelves are bare, and “gun shows” offer little more than tables of gun parts, knives and beef jerky? How will you stretch your finite stock of ammunition and reloading supplies, while continuing to use firearms to train, to hunt, and in necessary tasks, such as pest and predator elimination?

Black powder won’t work well in your Glock or in your AR-15, but in the right applications, black powder is surprisingly useful and effective. The firearms used in wars until the late 19th Century, those used in the winning of the American West, and the guns people relied upon in countless instances of self-defense, were all powered by black powder. The truth is that black powder firearms are powerful, accurate and very capable, if their limitations are understood and allowed for.

Moreover, black powder lends itself to “do it yourself” shooting. Many of the essentials can be homemade, often for very low prices. More on that, later.

First, let’s look at how black powder could be used to address some of the possible needs of people who wish to be more self-reliant in the event of some future catastrophe. We’ll examine defense, hunting, and long-range shooting.
 

Sentry18

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BLACK POWDER For SELF-DEFENSE
“For its size and weight nothing is so deadly as the round ball of pure lead when driven at fairly good velocity….Major R. E. Stratton and Samuel H. Fletcher told me the .36 Navy with full loads was a far better man killer than any .38 Special they had ever seen used in gun fights.” – Elmer Keith, Sixguns, page 211

Most of your choices in black powder handguns are six-shot cap-and-ball revolvers, but careful shooters generally only load five. Cap-and-ball revolvers use loose powder or paper “cartridges” of black powder in the chambers of the cylinder, commonly topped with a round ball. Most revolvers feature a built-in rammer to seat the ball and press it firmly against the powder. Percussion caps are then seated on nipples on the rear of the cylinder.

The late Elmer Keith wrote about the surprising effectiveness of cap-and-ball revolvers in his classic book: Sixguns. More recently, Mike Cumpston and Johnny Bates, in their excellent book, Percussion Revolvers, reported velocities of over 1,100 feet per second (fps) with a .454 round ball fired from a Remington New Model Army cap-and-ball revolver, a type of gun that was used by the North and, in smaller numbers, by the South in the U.S. Civil War.

People shooting black powder in cartridges will find more convenience and reliability — especially in wet weather — and in easier and faster loading and unloading. I recommend revolvers from the black powder era, as they are generally easier to clean, but some modern revolvers, such as the Ruger SP-101, GP-100 and Super Redhawk series, can be cleaned of black powder fouling without undue trouble. [JWR Adds: I generally recommend using stainless steel guns (if available) when shooting black powder. In case there is any delay in cleaning, these are much less likely to suffer from corrosion.)

Most black powder long guns from the time of powder and patched ball are limited to one or two shots, although a few guns, like the revolving carbines, offer more firepower. The lever actions designed in the era of black powder in cartridges are very capable defensive rifles that are still among the go-to choices in places where semi-auto rifles are banned. These include the strong, handy Winchester 1892 or the fast and smooth Winchester 1873.

Double barrel, break-open shotguns were originally made for black powder. Whether side-by-side or over/under, they work very well with black powder shells and are fairly easy to clean as most of the fouling goes down the barrels. Modern, pump-action shotguns are simple and easy to clean, and their robust actions can handle black powder fouling fairly well. Shotgun performance is not significantly degraded when using black powder, as black powder velocities are similar to typical shotgun velocities, and good patterns can be achieved with careful loading. However, the high burning temperature of black powder can shorten the life of plastic shells.

HUNTING WITH BLACK POWDER
Black powder hunting is fairly popular for some good reasons. One reason is that muzzle loading rifles and shotguns work well at typical hunting distances. Some hunters take up black powder for a longer hunting season. Others may enjoy the challenge of having just one or two shots, and they focus on the skills of getting close to game and making an accurate first shot.

Of particular interest are the replicas of the Sharps rifles. The early ones were breechloaders which used paper cartridges. They are popular today and are used in hunting, target shooting, and Civil War re-enacting.

Hunting with back powder cartridges is hardly a handicap at all. A lever action in .45-70, for example, can take just about any game in North America with black powder ammo, though a cartridge like .32-20 would be a better choice for small game. Reproduction single shots like the Sharps (which were made for black powder cartridges in the later models), or more recent designs, such as the H&R Handi-Rifle, are also useful game getters, as long as the rifle cartridge chosen is one that works well with black powder.

As already mentioned, shotgunners face some challenges with black powder, but good results are possible with both muzzle loading or with “modern” shotgun shells loaded with black powder. Some plastic hulls may not last through multiple reloadings, since black powder burns at a higher temperature than many smokeless powders.

LONG-RANGE BLACK POWDER SHOOTING
The current resurgence in long-range shooting includes black powder. Don’t believe it? Check out the Matthew Quigley Buffalo Rifle Match (https://www.quigleymatch.com), held annually outside Forsyth, Montana. Though many use smokeless powder, black powder is encouraged, especially for those competing with antique rifles. Most categories in the match require use of iron sights, and targets include a “buffalo” at 805 yards!

Still not convinced? Try reading about Billy Dixon and his “Mile-Long Shot” (later measured at over 1,500 yards by a US Army survey team) with a .50 Sharps rifle, at the Second Battle of Adobe Walls on June 27, 1874. Modest velocities with heavy lead bullets mean rather dramatic trajectories, but long range accuracy is possible!

(To be continued tomorrow, in Part 2.)
 

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The lead round ball (LRB) is fine at 800 to 1500 if you are not dealing with barricades or body armor. Modern improvements in protective gear requires modern ammunition to defeat it.
LRB will travel further in water and stay lethal when fired from above the water than modern ammunition. Snipers in the revolutionary war and in the war between the states had a maximum range of about 200 yards. The modern soldier trains at 300 yards (meters). The standard speed of a cap and ball pistol was about 800 fps. Modern pistols have velocities above 1000 fps with heavier projectiles. (the main exception to this is the 45 ACP with a standard load of 230 grain bullet at 800 to 850 fps)
Granted that it is impractical to make smokeless powder at home and for self sufficiency a black powder gun is better, however modern ammunition can be stored for a lifetime in mild temps. Remember the pioneers traveled in large groups because it took so long to reload that the American Indians had the advantage of rapid fire bows and light weight tools for close in fighting. A good bow is an effective weapon against a black powder rifle while not so good against a modern sporting rifle.
 

phideaux

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I love black powder.

I shoot some.

But I also store it for other purposes.. It can be dangerous, it will make a bigger boom than tannerite.:D


Shtf defense

Jim
 

Peanut

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Charcoal made from members of the grape family (vitis sp) (grape vines, muscadine vines etc) is especially good for making black powder, very little processing needed.
 

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The first year I started making charcoal for the farmers market I experimented quite a bit with different types of wood.
Some folks stopped by and was checking it out. They had a fit over the mucadine charcoal. I sold all I had, even made a batch the next year.

Most would think charcoal is charcoal... No, it's not, different wood produces different charcoal as far as density, ease of lighting, ease of turning into powder or rate of burn etc.

Red oak turns out perfect for cooking and filtration, it is pitted to the extreme compared to say... white oak or maple.
 
Last edited:

SheepDog

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White Willow is what I was always told to use. I am sure that as long as it is completely powdered any source would work. A ball mill is an absolute must and it is best to have two of them. One for the charcoal and another for the potassium nitrate. Then you can use the one for potassium nitrate to wet mix all the ingredients. To wet the ingredients I use 30% water and 70% alcohol (or you can just buy Isopropyl rubbing alcohol that is a perfect 70-30 mix of water and alcohol. f you have a problem with the mixture drying too fast use a bit more water.
 

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Ever wonder why the recipe for black powder is not in the encyclopedias any more? If you find and old set from say the 50s, it is in there.
 

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I've had the basic recipe memorized since I was 6 or 7 years old. I have also modified it just a bit to make it work better. My first gun was just the right caliber for a glass marble. I fired it remotely at a gallon jug 25 feet away. What a mess! It blew that jug into little pieces except for the bottom. Home made gun and home made powder. I was hooked!
 

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I made black powder once as a teen. I had put some in a tin can and was getting ready to light it when I realised that it would leave a burn ring in my bedroom floor. I took it out to the middle of the street ant lit it off. it was poor quality and not confined so it burned slowly. When it finally stopped 90% of the can had been burned up and the little that was left was pure rust and crumbled in my hands. I realised that I almost burned down our home. I would still like to do it again so I guess that I haven't learned too much.
 

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Caribou, the ingredient ratios are by weight, not by volume. That and you need all the ingredients powdered to the point of dust and combine them in a wet mixture so they are homogeneous when they dry.
You run the semi dry mixture through a screen to get the grain size you want and then sift it when dry to get three different grain sizes. The largest grains are for rifles and cannons, the medium size is for pistols and the powdery dust is for the touch pans of flintlocks. For rockets you cast it in one large grain in the motor casing. For bombs you don't pack it, leaving it loose makes it burn much faster.

On a side note; black powder should burn just as fast in the open as it does when contained.
 

Caribou

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Caribou, the ingredient ratios are by weight, not by volume. That and you need all the ingredients powdered to the point of dust and combine them in a wet mixture so they are homogeneous when they dry.
You run the semi dry mixture through a screen to get the grain size you want and then sift it when dry to get three different grain sizes. The largest grains are for rifles and cannons, the medium size is for pistols and the powdery dust is for the touch pans of flintlocks. For rockets you cast it in one large grain in the motor casing. For bombs you don't pack it, leaving it loose makes it burn much faster.

On a side note; black powder should burn just as fast in the open as it does when contained.
Thank God that at 13 I didn't know that. Thanks for the specifics.
 

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Part 2 of the original article.

https://survivalblog.com/black-powder-self-reliance-part-2-m-b/

Black Powder for Self-Reliance – Part 2, by M.B.
SurvivalBlog Contributor October 9, 2019
(Continued from Part 1.)

Introductory Disclaimer (Repeated):
Making black powder, while safe in the author’s experimental experience, can be dangerous. The author and SurvivalBlog.com do not endorse making black powder, and you do so at your own risk. Making black powder could also be in violation of the laws in your jurisdiction. You are responsible for compliance with all laws in your area. Neither the author, nor SurvivalBlog.com, are responsible for your use of the information in this article. The processes described herein are therefore for informational purposes only.

Safety Note (Repeated):
Black powder can be dangerous if there is a gap between the powder and the projectile, when the firearm is loaded. When loading a muzzle loading firearm, be sure to seat the projectile firmly, so there is no empty space above the powder. This includes cap-and-ball revolvers, which can have no space between the powder and the ball or bullet, although wads can be used to fill the space when a light powder charge is used. When loading black powder cartridges, there must be no empty space inside the cartridge. You may need to use a wadding or other “filler” over the powder to take up the space inside the case.



MORE ON AMMO SHORTAGES
What if a tyrannical government tried to ban all firearm and ammo sales under the excuse of a “national emergency?” Or if panic at the threat of such a ban caused widespread shortages in ammunition and reloading components?

Whatever ammunition and components (brass, powder, primers, bullets) you have could suddenly be it, for the foreseeable future. Every raccoon raiding the henhouse that you shoot, every shot fired in training or practice, and every game animal you harvest represents one less round of ammo in your inventory.

What if you could make your own ammo? Not just assembling components you purchase, but make your own components from things bought in a home improvement store, a toy store, a grocery store, or even from things you find in the trash or from things found in nature? If you could make ammo good enough for practice, for hunting or for pest elimination, that could stretch your other ammo supplies much, much further.

GUNPOWDER, ALSO KNOWN AS BLACK POWDER
“Technologically, gunpowder bridged the gap between the medieval and modern eras.” – “The Gunpowder Revolution, C. 1300-1650”

When I was growing up, it seemed like all of my friends knew that “gunpowder” was made of potassium nitrate, sulfur and charcoal. Some of us even knew the proportions! What we didn’t know was that simply mixing the three components does not produce good quality black powder. Early medieval powder was made by grinding the components separately and mixing the powder dry, shortly before use. The resulting powder was called serpentine. It was inconsistent in performance and was sometimes even dangerous.

A better way is to mill the powder, which better combines the three ingredients. As described below, I used a rock tumbler as a ball mill to accomplish this.

Black powder consists of three primary components, measured by weight:

Potassium nitrate (KNO3) – 75% by weight:
an oxidizer, the KNO3 supplies oxygen for the reaction

Charcoal – 15% by weight:
provides carbon and other fuel for the reaction. Charcoal is the most important component, and its quality affects the finished powder. Willow is considered the best wood for charcoal if you make your own. “Charcoal” briquets for barbecue do not work well and are a waste of time to mess with.

Sulfur (S) – 10% by weight:
while also serving as a fuel, sulfur lowers the temperature required to ignite the mixture, thereby increasing the rate of combustion. Sulfur is the least important component; if left out, the powder will reportedly still work, though it will be harder to ignite. I have not tried this, as sulfur is easy to obtain and inexpensive.

MAKING BLACK POWDER
I was inspired to take up this experiment when I read about the book, Locusts on the Horizon, by the Plan B Writer’s Alliance, specifically the article: “Homemade Gunpowder for Long Term Survival”. The article provided links to two videos by a gentleman calling himself “Brushhippie.” Those two YouTube videos have since been taken down, but I downloaded copies after seeing them, primarily out of fear that YouTube would remove the videos.

Brushhippie’s second video is now available on Vimeo, at: https://vimeo.com/user54220453 Although the first video could not be found, the second video covers his method well. His process is fairly simple and requires very little special equipment. I based my method on that of Brushhippie, and it seems to work very well.

BLACK POWDER SAFETY
Black powder must be treated with respect at all times. It is very easy to ignite and burns rapidly. For this reason, you should always use caution when loading black powder firearms. When loading single-shot muzzleloaders, I always pour powder down the barrel from a powder measure or a paper cartridge, not from a flask. If a lingering spark sets off the powder, a flask full of powder should not be open and in the path of the fire.

When loading a black powder firearm, always be sure to seat the projectile firmly, so there is no empty space above the powder. This includes muzzleloaders, cap-and-ball revolvers and black powder in cartridges. There can be no space between the powder and the ball or bullet, although wads can be used to fill the space when a light powder charge is used. Empty space above black powder can result in dangerous pressures.

Above all, consult a good black powder manual. Learn to use black powder safely, and you will find that it is no more dangerous than other shooting sports.

MATERIALS
Potassium nitrate – 1 pound bottle of Spectracide Stump Remover. This is essentially pure potassium nitrate – I paid $7.48 at Lowe’s.

Sulfur – 1 pound bottle Lilly Miller Sulfur. Lilly Miller is about 90% sulfur – The cost was $6.98 at Lowe’s.

Charcoal – 2 pounds “air float” charcoal – The charcoal was just $4 per pound, plus $16.71 shipping(!) – from hobbychemicalsupply.com

Dextrin – Argo Corn Starch. (This comes in a 1-pound box, but you’ll only use part of it.) Ordinary grocery store corn starch (brand doesn’t matter) is spread out on a cookie sheet and baked at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 hours. It acts as a binder in the corning process. An amount equal to 5% of the batch weight is added the powder. I’ll explain the process later. A box cost me only $1.67 at Walmart.

With the prices given above, and including the price of shipping into the price of the charcoal, the price for a pound of homemade black powder would be $8.11. The price includes sales tax on the potassium nitrate and the sulfur, although I receive a 10% discount at Lowes as a military veteran. The potassium nitrate accounts for $5.49 of the total cost of a pound of powder. If you find a better price, without outrageous shipping costs, homemade black powder can be very inexpensive.

TOOLS
Rock tumbler with black rubber tumbling chamber, 3 pound capacity – $44.99 at Harbor Freight. This is used as a ball mill, with a pound of lead balls. Multiple designs for homebuilt ball mills are available on the Internet. It’s essentially a small, cylindrical container made of sturdy, non-sparking material, which needs to hold something to be crushed, along with non-sparking metal (lead) balls. Some kind of simple motor is needed to rotate the drum.

100 foot heavy-duty extension cord

Digital scale

100 .36 lead balls (000 buckshot). The diameter was not important, but the overall weight (about 1 pound) and the material are. Non-sparking lead balls in a non-sparking rubber container provide no opportunity for a spark. Do not use glass, ceramic, or steel balls. Use lead balls, for safety!

Kitty litter scoop (for separating lead balls from powder)

Flexible plastic cutting board (for mixing powder with water before corning), or a plastic cafeteria tray

Spray bottle (for misting water onto powder for corning)

Old credit card, hotel card/key, or similar plastic card for mixing/stirring the powder and water. A small plastic spatula for use with putty could also be used.

Screening frame – made from scrap 1×3 wood and metal window screen. The size of the frame is unimportant. My frame is approximately 1 by 2 feet in size. The screen has about 16 squares per inch, which gives finished gunpowder that is comparable to commercial FFFg in appearance.

Newspapers for drying the powder after screening (corning)

Dust mask or respirator to avoid breathing powder dust

Latex, nitrile or rubber gloves
 

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PROCESS FOR MAKING BLACK POWDER
A good batch size is 200 grams (.44 pounds) of black powder. The batch requires:

– 150 grams potassium nitrate (75% by weight)
– 30 grams charcoal (15% by weight)
– 20 grams sulfur (10% by weight)
———
200 grams total

– Plus 10 grams dextrin (baked corn starch – +%5 by weight)

Carefully weigh the three main ingredients and add them to the rubber drum of the rock tumbler, along with the lead balls. Note: The dextrin is not added until the very end of the milling process.

Using a 100-foot extension cord, set the tumbler up far away from any buildings, people, or animals, in a shaded spot on bare soil or a concrete slab. Tumble the powder and lead balls for at least six hours.

Be very careful with black powder, as it is very easily ignited by a single spark.

[JWR Adds: I’m sure that this article will inspire howls of derision from readers claiming that black powder and lead balls inside a rock tumbler is a recipe for making an unintended fragmentation bomb. However, keep in mind that these tumblers user a flexible rubber tumbler body with a plastic lid. If the powder were to ignite, the lid would simply pop off and the powder would burn, and not explode. Truly explosive force from gunpowder is seen only when it is fully contained, allowing pressure to build up. Granted, even a flaming rock tumbler that is still spinning would be a bad thing, but not catastrophic, if at a safe distance from anything flammable.]

After 6+ hours, unplug the tumbler extension cord and allow the tumbler assembly to cool for one hour. Then don your mask or respirator and gloves before opening the tumbler drum. Approach it and open the tumbler drum. Open it slowly and carefully, to avoid a cloud of dust. Add the 10 grams of baked corn starch and tumble for just 20-30 minutes more. Again unplug the tumbler extension cord and allow the tumbler assembly to cool for one hour before approaching it. The powder is now ready for corning, which will change it from superfine “meal powder” to granular gunpowder that will burn well in a firearm.

I spread out a piece of “Visqueen” plastic sheeting in my work area. It helps to keep the mess under control.

Corning consists of three steps:

1. Moistening the powder.
2. Screening it to create granules of a given size. This is corning.
3. Drying on newspapers.

Spread out a few layers of newspaper on the plastic and set the screening box over them. Also on the sheet, place a flexible cutting board or cafeteria tray, plastic card or spatula for stirring, and a sprayer filled with water. I use distilled water, as my well water is very “hard” with minerals. It may not make a difference, but it can’t hurt.

Again, don your mask or respirator and gloves before opening the tumbler drum. Open slowly and carefully, to avoid a cloud of dust.

Place the kitty litter scoop on the mixing surface, and slowly pour about 1/4 to 1/3 of the tumbler contents onto the scoop. Slowly lift the scoop to remove the lead balls from the powder. Carefully pour off the balls into a container for later re-use.

The key in moistening the powder for corning is to gently use a fine spray of water, adding a small amount at a time, while stirring with the plastic card to distribute the water. You want the powder moist enough to form a firm ball, but not wet enough for water to come out of the ball when squeezed.

When the powder is moistened, form a ball of it in your fist and begin gently rubbing it through the screen, so it falls onto the newspaper. Make sure that no powder is clinging to the underside of the screen. Clumps of powder stuck to the underside of the screen are an indication that the powder is too wet.

If the screened powder looks as fine as it was coming out of the tumbler, then it is too dry. If this happens, you can put it back on the mixing surface, moisten it to the proper level, and corn the powder again.

Try to use all parts of the screen, so the powder is spread as thinly as possible over the newspaper. This will ensure faster drying.

Repeat the steps above until all the powder is moistened and corned through the window screen onto the newspaper. Remove the screening box and allow the powder to dry in a low-humidity (30% or lower) environment.

When thoroughly dry, the finished powder should be stored in airtight containers. Black powder, being a simple mixture, has a very long shelf life. Again, be very careful with black powder, as it is very easily ignited by a single spark.

(To be continued tomorrow, in Part 3.)
 

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Thanks Sentry! This guy actually knows the numbers and the process! A nice little guide to print out! I have a guide I printed out years ago but have no idea where its at...

Think I've posted this before... It seems the military sent notices to every dairy in the northeast that they were going to haul away their cow poop before/during ww2 (its saturated with urine)... The military hauled it to west virginia to process out the potassium nitrate.

Hey Grandpa! What did you do during the war?
Well, I hauled cow poop to West Virginia! :D
 

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Part 3.

https://survivalblog.com/black-powder-self-reliance-part-3-m-b/


Black Powder for Self-Reliance – Part 3, by M.B.
SurvivalBlog Contributor October 10, 2019
(Continued from Part 2.)

Introductory Disclaimer (Repeated):
Making black powder, while safe in the author’s experimental experience, can be dangerous. The author and SurvivalBlog.com do not endorse making black powder, and you do so at your own risk. Making black powder could also be in violation of the laws in your jurisdiction. You are responsible for compliance with all laws in your area. Neither the author, nor SurvivalBlog.com, are responsible for your use of the information in this article. The processes described herein are therefore for informational purposes only.

Safety Note (Repeated):
Black powder can be dangerous if there is a gap between the powder and the projectile, when the firearm is loaded. When loading a muzzle loading firearm, be sure to seat the projectile firmly, so there is no empty space above the powder. This includes cap-and-ball revolvers, which can have no space between the powder and the ball or bullet, although wads can be used to fill the space when a light powder charge is used. When loading black powder cartridges, there must be no empty space inside the cartridge. You may need to use a wadding or other “filler” over the powder to take up the space inside the case.



IGNITION SYSTEMS
Black powder is ignited in firearms with a variety of methods. The first truly practical technology was the flintlock. The hammer held a piece of flint, or a similar mineral. When the trigger was pulled and the hammer fell, the flint would strike the steel frizzen and shower sparks into a pan of powder and ignite the main powder charge in the barrel. Although the more ancient matchlock could potentially be more reliable, the flintlock was a cost-effective firearm that could be kept loaded and ready at an instant’s notice.

Flintlocks are often suggested for survival when the stores are closed. While it’s true that a dedicated craftsman and shooter can keep a flintlock running almost indefinitely without resupply, the flintlock can be challenging for beginners. In some places [without rocky creek bottoms], suitable “flint” is hard to come by. Additionally, the percussion system has some advantages of its own.

It’s no coincidence that once percussion technology became widely available, it began to replace flintlocks in most places, especially in military firearms. Percussion firearms use a small metal cap with sensitive chemicals in it to set off the main charge. The cap is placed on a cone, or nipple, which has a tiny hole in it, leading into the breach of the firearm. When the cap is struck by the hammer, the chemicals in it ignite and in turn ignite the main powder charge.

Percussion caps are less affected by moisture than the loose fine-grained powder used to prime a flintlock. Although a good flintlock in good hands can be very reliable, percussion is more reliable in less skilled hands than a flintlock. The action is simpler and more compact, and is generally easier to maintain and repair.

One of the greatest advantages of the percussion cap is that its small size allows it to be used in black powder revolvers. A .44 black powder revolver is a powerful weapon that can still do the job, even though the earliest successful percussion revolver, the Colt Paterson, debuted 183 years ago!

A percussion cap is also easier for the average person to make than one might think. For my experiment, I used a Tap-O-Cap tool that is nearly forty years old. It was designed to make caps from aluminum beverage cans, and I’ve made many percussion caps from soft drink cans over the years. This time, though, I used a discarded roasting pan for the caps that were used with my homemade powder. The priming material is toy paper caps (as used in old style “cap guns”).

Percussion nipples can be made by cutting a piece of a machine screw to length, drilling a hole through it, and reshaping one end to accept a percussion cap. It’s easier to purchase nipples right now, but they are relatively simple devices [for any machinist] to improvise in a pinch.

Important Safety Note: You must wear safety glasses when making or handling percussion caps!
 

Sentry18

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MAKING PERCUSSION CAPS
Given the simple shape of a percussion cap, it’s not surprising that tools are available to make your own caps at home. The Tap-O-Cap, however, has long been out of production. They are difficult to find for sale, even on web sites such as eBay. A possible replacement for the Tap-o-Cap, from a company called Sharp Shooter, is their “#11 Percussion Cap Maker.” It is is now available for $44.95, but I have not had the opportunity to test one yet. It uses a product called “Prime-All” to fill the percussion caps. The company sells it as four harmless chemicals that are mixed correctly to make the priming material.

With a Tap-O-Cap, I can turn a strip of aluminum into a pile of empty percussion caps with pleated sides. The Tap-O-Cap came with a paper punch, which can be used to punch the centers out of toy paper caps. A small piece of wood dowel (I use a piece cut from a bamboo skewer) is used to gently press three toy caps into each newly-formed cap.

The caps I have made with a Tap-O-Cap over the years have worked surprisingly well, but caution must be used with cap-and-ball revolvers. Because of their pleated sides, the homemade caps cannot fit as tightly on the nipples as No. 10 or No. 11 percussion caps. It is possible that the loose fit could be the cause of a chain fire, where firing one revolver chamber sets off one or more of the other chambers. As you can see in the photo at the top of this article, there is plenty of fire present when a black powder revolver is discharged.

Because of this risk of chain fire, I load and shoot my revolver as a single shot when using homemade caps.

If I decided to carry a fully-loaded black powder revolver using homemade caps, I would probably try to squeeze each cap to ensure that it fit tightly on the nipple. I would then carefully apply a few drops of molten wax to seal around each cap, to try to prevent a spark from getting under one of the caps. I of course would not pour wax from a lit candle!

A better course of action would be to hoard my supply of Remington #10 factory-made caps and put them on four of the five loaded chambers. The chamber that was first to come under the hammer would have a homemade cap on it. If I only needed to take one shot, I would avoid using a factory cap for that shot with this method.

TESTING HOMEMADE POWDER AND HOMEMADE CAPS
I tested my homemade powder and percussion caps with an Uberti replica of the 1863 Remington New Model Army revolver in .44 caliber (actually it’s a .45). This is the gun that is commonly — and erroneously — referred to as the “1858 Remington.” The Remington “NMA” is an excellent design and is popular with Civil War re-enactors and black powder shooters. It has a solid top strap, unlike the Colt designs and hence is a strong revolver with a somewhat modern look. The Remington also has safety notches in the cylinder, allowing a fairly good degree of safety for carry with six loaded chambers. I will continue to recommend loading five and lowering the hammer on an empty chamber, however.

Ballistically, the Remington makes good use of black powder. It also has an 8-inch barrel for higher velocities. Its deep chambers allow for the larger charges of powder than some other .44 cap-and-ball revolvers. It was easy to load 35 grains of powder. I was able to load 40 grains, but the amount of powder compression was more than I consider safe. Smaller charges can be used, of course, by seating the bullet or ball deeper in the chamber to rest against the powder.

This article describes a “worst case scenario” test. I imagined a person who did not have access to the ideal components for loading the revolver. I used hardware store and grocery store chemicals, though I did purchase my charcoal from a chemical company, as I could find no willow trees growing anywhere near me. By the way, willow charcoal is widely considered to be the best.

For lead, I scavenged lead from the backstop of a local pistol range, imagining that a person might have to use whatever scrap lead they could find. The lead turned out to be much too hard and caused problems for me. More on that, later. For the caps, I tried a roasting pan that I found in the trash at a barbecue. It was used only for serving and cleaned up easily.

Lubricants
Non-petroleum lube is needed when shooting black powder. I made up a small batch of homemade “bore butter,” melting 1 ounce each (by weight) of olive oil and beeswax in an empty cat food can in a pan of water. I used the 50/50 recipe because I live in the Deep South and would be shooting in summer heat. The ingredients are popular, but some shooters use as much as four parts oil to one part beeswax for lube that won’t freeze solid in the depths of winter. The common recipe is one part beeswax to two parts olive oil or other fat. Don’t use a fat that contains salt, such as bacon grease.

I used a cat food can because I buy the plastic lids that fit them. These cans are great for mixing and storing various lubes for shooting. To make lubed felt wads, melt some lube in a can and stir in the wads until the lube is used up. Leave the wads in the can and let it cool, then put a lid on it. Another convenient type of can is a recycled shoe polish tin. The little, rotating “key” on the side is very handy when hands are slippery after shooting cap-and-ball revolvers!

(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 4.)
 

hiwall

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Just how long do some people plan for anyway?
With a muzzle loader in the end times you will not be shooting 500 rounds a day for practice. So just store some extra caps and buy a few extra pounds of powder.
 

SheepDog

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I don't use black powder but I do have a stock of primers, powders and bullets. I even have a bit of black powder and fuse for my signal cannon.
Black powder can be used to make mortars and rockets too, if you know the math or are willing to test and improve.
I have a 6-12 volt 6 position launch controller that I built when I was making model rockets years ago.
 

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We had a neighbor on our east side many years ago that had a black power cannon and he made his own blackpowder, with the cake process using a very small portion of water, when it dried out he broke it into small pieces and screened the powder, that's the way it used to be done and by using different screen sizes is how they'd get pistol, rifle and cannon sized powder. He set that cannon off one New Years day and it sounded like a box of dynamite had been blown. Back when I was in the eighth grade I found the basic formula in our spelling book, I went to a drug store and found the sulfur, saltpeter and charcoal and work with the mix until I got one to work pretty good, I used 1/2" water pipe with a cap and a small drilled hole for a blow hole and used wadded newspaper to hold the power in, I knew better than to put any kind of load down the pipe because I knew how pipes were made and that they would split, it's probably a good thing I never learned how to make blackpowder cake because as fast as that burns, I might have had to dodge pieces of split pipe.
 

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Part 4 - the final article.

https://survivalblog.com/black-powder-self-reliance-part-4-m-b/

Black Powder for Self-Reliance – Part 4, by M.B.
SurvivalBlog Contributor October 11, 2019
(Continued from Part 3. This concludes a four-part series.)

Introductory Disclaimer (Repeated):
Making black powder, while safe in the author’s experimental experience, can be dangerous. The author and SurvivalBlog.com do not endorse making black powder, and you do so at your own risk. Making black powder could also be in violation of the laws in your jurisdiction. You are responsible for compliance with all laws in your area. Neither the author, nor SurvivalBlog.com, are responsible for your use of the information in this article. The processes described herein are therefore for informational purposes only.

Safety Note (Repeated):
Black powder can be dangerous if there is a gap between the powder and the projectile, when the firearm is loaded. When loading a muzzle loading firearm, be sure to seat the projectile firmly, so there is no empty space above the powder. This includes cap-and-ball revolvers, which can have no space between the powder and the ball or bullet, although wads can be used to fill the space when a light powder charge is used. When loading black powder cartridges, there must be no empty space inside the cartridge. You may need to use a wadding or other “filler” over the powder to take up the space inside the case.



I primarily used a full charge of 35 grains of my home-made black powder for the tests. No commercial powder was used. Black powder is measured by volume, not weight, by the way.

Cap-and-ball revolvers are meant to be used with soft, pure lead balls or bullets. Because of the very hard lead, I could not use the pistol’s rammer without fear of breaking it. To load, I had to remove the cylinder and load it on a wooden range bench. Balls in cap-and-ball revolvers must fit tightly in the chambers. It is normal for a small ring of lead to be cut from the ball as it seats in the front of the chamber.

I poured the powder in each chamber and immediately seated a ball. I used a short starter to do the initial seating. A surprising amount of force was needed. I suspect the range lead I melted down included hard-cast commercial lead bullets. Once the widest part of the ball was past the chamber mouth, I pushed the ball in until it was flush, using a short dowel. The balls have to be flush in order to put the cylinder back in the gun. Again, I load only five of the six chambers.

After the cylinder was replaced, I gently seated the balls firmly against the powder with the revolver’s rammer. This was easy, as the balls had been shaved down to the exact width of the chamber mouths. A small amount of homemade lube was then applied to completely seal the front of each chamber. Although it helps prevent chain fires by sealing the chamber mouth, the tight bullet fit also does that. The lube is there mainly to provide bullet lubrication and to keep the powder fouling in the barrel and at the barrel/cylinder gap soft. This helps keep the gun from freezing up and requiring a stop to clean and lube the gun.

The last step before firing was placing caps on the nipples. The nipples were capped only when the gun was assembled. NEVER install a capped cylinder into a black powder revolver. That is extremely dangerous!

Before loading the revolver, I had fired a cap in each chamber to make sure no residual oil was in there to deactivate the black powder. Failing to completely remove oil from the nipples and chambers is a common cause of failures to fire for black powder revolvers.

Because of the risk of chain fire, I loaded and shot my revolver as a single shot when testing the homemade caps. When shooting groups, Remington #10 caps were used.

TEST RESULTS
The initial tests used the first batch of powder, which had been corned while too dry and was not very “granular.” I also used the second batch, which looked like FFFg black powder. Fifty shots were fired in the first test, using both powders, and all shots went off and completely burned. The first batch, however, did not have as much felt recoil as the second.

The first batch of powder was later re-moistened and corned again. Its appearance was changed, and it behaved like the second batch, after that.

The second round of testing was twenty shots, with similar results, except for one chamber that required a second Remington #10 cap to get it to fire at the beginning of the test. Evidently, there was still some oil present when I loaded it.

As noted above, when homemade caps were used, only one chamber was loaded, out of caution to prevent a possible chain fire. Twenty homemade caps were tested. All homemade caps set off the powder charge in the chamber. The roasting pan aluminum was rather thin, and some caps had holes in them after firing, but they still worked!

The homemade lube worked perfectly. It stayed solid in nearly 100 degree weather. It also kept the gun from seizing up due to powder fouling the area around the barrel/cylinder gap. Cleaning the bore afterwards was easy, thanks to the soft fouling.

Although I tried to use only the amount of lube I needed, I saw tiny dots of lube on the target at ranges of less than seven yards! However, the revolver was not overly greasy.

The Uberti Remington replicas have a reputation for accuracy. I believe the revolver is more accurate than I am, as my vision is not what it once was. The revolver has better sights than many of its contemporaries, and it shot to point of aim at seven yards. My best group at that distance measured 1-1/8 inches, center-to-center.

Penetration was tested by setting up a row of gallon milk jugs full of water and shooting to see how many jugs the bullet would penetrate. With 35 grains of FFFg homemade black powder (from the second batch) and a homemade cap, the home-cast 140-grain round ball went completely through five jugs and dented the sixth. That is 30 inches of water! By comparison, a modern .38 Special self-defense load I tested went through only four jugs and lodged in the fifth. I have no doubt that the Uberti Remington, loaded with a round ball over 35 grains of powder, could be effective for self-defense or for dispatching varmints like raccoons or possums.

CLEANING
“…only about 44 percent by weight of a properly burned charge of black powder was converted into propellant gases, the balance being solid residues.” – “The Gunpowder Revolution, C. 1300-1650”

Black powder is messy, but cleanup is not that difficult. First off, the use of good, non-petroleum lubes should help keep the fouling soft and easy to remove. Secondly, one of the best solutions for black powder cleaning is inexpensive and easy to find: Windex!

In his excellent and highly informative book, Shooting Sixguns of the Old West, firearms historian and gun writer Mike Venturino recommends using a bottle of standard formulation Windex (NOT the variety with ammonia). He dumps it into a gallon jug and fills it to the top with water. I filled the Windex spray bottle with the mix. With the Windex cleaning solution, 100% cotton patches (from recycled shirts or from the bargain bin of a fabric store), some Q-tips, and pipe cleaners, cleaning a cap-and-ball revolver isn’t difficult.

The only tools needed for cleaning are a long pistol rod, a nipple wrench, and a few good screwdrivers. One of the great things about the Remington New Model Army design is that it has few parts and is easy to dismantle and reassemble. There are few “nooks and crannies” for black powder fouling to hide in.

For metal protection and lubrication after cleaning, I use non-petroleum Lubriplate FMO-350-AW Oil. It was designed for use in food processing facilities and is non-toxic and has almost no odor. But there are plenty of other good choices available.

CONCLUSION
Black powder firearms would not be my first choice for self-defense, hunting or for long-range and other specialized types of shooting. But I would not feel severely handicapped if I had to switch to loading the .357 Magnum, .45 Colt ,and .45-70 calibers with black powder. In any case, learning about black powder gives us more tools in our tool box. The strong do-it-yourself mindset that seems to be part of black powder shooting is a plus.

Black powder technology is very difficult for tyrannical governments to regulate because so much of the information about it is public, and because the technology is fairly easy for a home hobbyist to replicate. Even if you never need to use black powder, you’re missing out on a lot of fun if you don’t try it!
 
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